10 Lessons Learned From 10 Years of RTF Grantmaking
Lesson 4: Support for Frontline Activists Includes Funding Healing Justice

Lesson 4: Support for Frontline Activists Includes Funding Healing Justice - Proteus Fund

“We cannot achieve liberation without ensuring we are healing in the process.”

This powerful statement from community organizer Dago Bailon stood out from the June 11 Healing Justice Institute in Seattle, organized by Funders for Justice in partnership with the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. The goal of the institute was to train funders in the Healing Justice framework, and strategize how philanthropy can incorporate the framework into their funding of social justice movements. 

For me, Dago’s statement sums up the essence of the Healing Justice framework. The term “healing justice” emerged in 2006 from a network of political organizers and health care practitioners, and it has evolved to become a framework that supports social movement organizers and their communities in prioritizing safety and community care. The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice has offered a set of recommendations regarding what the healing justice framework means for philanthropy.

The RISE Together Fund (RTF) has supported Muslim, Arab and South Asian (MASA) community organizations since 2008, and in that time, increasing hate crimes and direct political attacks have been par for the course for the advocates and organizers we support. As a result, we have long seen the critical need for funding the wellness and security of our valued advocates — we see clear connectivity between our grantmaking practices and the values underpinning the healing justice framework. Below are a few of the Astraea healing justice recommendations, along with examples of how RISE Together Fund is incorporating these ideas into our grantmaking.

  • Recommendation: Set aside intentional, additional resources to support healing justice practices and communicate with your grantee partners that this funding exists. Assume it is needed. Make it accessible and with limited reporting. Encourage your grantees to use it.

In 2019 RTF funded the first-ever MASA women’s leadership cohort with the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Our cohort is comprised of 20 MASA women who are executive directors, policy directors and board members of our grantee organizations. We offered this program to our women leaders because more than 75% of our grantees are led by MASA women, and we are cognizant of the particular pressures MASA women face. MASA women are fighting racist and misogynistic policies, as well as patriarchal norms within their communities. We are encouraged that the feedback from our cohort was positive — the weeklong Rockwood program offered our cohort an opportunity to reflect and begin tackling barriers in that inhibit their work, and critically, it was an opportunity to build deeper bonds across MASA women leaders throughout the country.

  • Recommendation: Rather than defining capacity building practices for grantee partners, ask them what would most support their work. What would help them to build their own capacity or to feel that they have the energy needed to do their work? Capacity building is not always about doing more; within the context of healing justice and holistic security, it’s about finding ways to do work without being harmed by it. It’s being able to rest and remember ourselves, and remember why we are here doing what we are doing.

Doxxing and other online attacks are regular occurrences for many of our grantees. As a result, RTF has been funding technology literacy training for Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities since 2017 to support their security. We partner with Equality Labs, an organization led by MASA community members that works to improve technological literacy among a new generation of MASA organizers. With our funding, Equality Labs trains staff members within organizations in how to address and prevent future online attacks, and they also provide ongoing, trauma-informed technical assistance for our grantees. RTF is now exploring direct funding of physical security practices as well in partnership with other Proteus Fund collaboratives. 

  • Consider how your funding practices may be contributing to the stress and urgency that movements are experiencing. Are there ways in which you can move more slowly and deliberately? As funders, we need to practice this work ourselves. Healing justice calls on us to do our work to understand what feels urgent and why, and to be more mindful of how our sense of urgency impacts grantee partners. It is important that we are able to asses and shift our sense of urgency at every level of grantmaking, including grants management and operations as well as programs.

RTF works to keep our grants management and operations practices streamlined and transparent for our grantees. We prioritize responding to cold calls or emails requesting funding, so that nobody is left in the dark about whether their communication was received. We make clear to organizations that if they are invited to submit a proposal for a core grant,  they can trust that we expect to recommend them for a grant. In addition, we have a dedicated rapid response/opportunity fund through which we can turn around grants within 3 weeks to support urgent situations that may arise.

The June 11 Healing Justice institute was a powerful introduction to the Healing Justice framework, and it revealed that there are many tangible ways that funders of social movements can incorporate the framework into their philanthropy. Particularly in this moment of increasing political attacks and hate crimes against MASA communities, a focus on wellness and resiliency of our valued advocates is critical. RTF will continue our healing-focused grantmaking practices that our grantees express that they need, and we will iterate on how we can incorporate the framework into our grantmaking going forward.  

Resources: MASA organizations with a focus on healing and wellness

Muslim Wellness Foundation: https://www.muslimwellness.com/ 

Queer Crescent: https://www.queercrescent.org/

Equality Labs: https://www.equalitylabs.org